Peshawar records lowest coverage during anti-measles campaign

Published November 30, 2021
A health worker administers measles vaccine to a boy in a health centre in Gulbahar, Peshawar, on Thursday. — White Star
A health worker administers measles vaccine to a boy in a health centre in Gulbahar, Peshawar, on Thursday. — White Star

PESHAWAR: Eight private schools were sealed in Peshawar on Monday for not allowing health workers to vaccinate students during the recent province-wide campaign against measles/rubella.

The district administration has launched drive to cover the refusal cases in Peshawar, which has 63 per cent vaccination coverage, the lowest in the province recorded during the campaign, according to officials.

The district administration in collaboration with health department has launched a catch-up campaign to reach the people, who have not been immunised during the drive, carried out from November 15 to 17. A total of 1.6 million people were administered the shots in the province, according to a report of health department.

A press release said that district administration sealed eight schools in different parts of the provincial capital for refusing vaccination during the catch-up drive after the province-wide campaign under which 16,166,837 people were immunised.

Eight schools sealed for not allowing vaccination of students

Officials said that the schools were identified by expanded programme on immunisation (EPI) of health department in a report. Despite isolated incidents of hesitancy shown by parents against the vaccination, more coverage was recorded than the 15.6 million target children set forth at the start of the drive, they added.

Deputy Commissioner Khalid Mehmood deputed assistant commissioners to check schools not covered in the campaign. On the occasion, administration convinced the defiant people, who allowed inoculation of their children during the catch-up campaign.

The press release said that besides covering the missed people between nine months to 15 years, the officials backed by social mobilisers explained the benefits associated with the vaccine to people and told them that the reluctant ones would face due course of law.

The health officials said that prior to launch of the drive, the government ordered the schools to cooperate with health workers and ensure vaccination of all students. Those showing defiance would face three-month imprisonment along with Rs10, 000 fine.

The administration has invoked the Epidemic Control and Emergency Relief Act, 2020, which stipulates imposition of a Rs1 million fine on the schools for refusing vaccination.

Meanwhile, a report by the health department said that 100 per cent target was achieved with the support of the administration in every district and vaccinators were still in the field to go after the people, who hadn’t been administered shots either due to refusal or their non-availability when the vaccinators visited their houses.

It said that government schools were extremely cooperative but health workers faced challenges in private schools where children stayed unvaccinated. The heads of the schools argued that parents of the children were not willing to get them immunised.

The vaccination report said that except Peshawar with 63 per cent coverage, all the districts recorded from 100 to 130 per cent coverage, making the average 100 per cent during the campaign. Khyber recoded 95pc coverage, Swabi and Kolai Palas 96 per cent each while 99pc coverage was recorded by Chitral Upper, Chitral Lower and Kohistan Upper during the drive.

The vaccinators administered vaccine to 130 per cent people in the target age group in Dir Upper, 119pc in Swat, 117pc in Nowshera, 116pc in Tank, 114 pc in Kurram and 113 pc in Bajaur.

The report said that 15,000 vaccinators covered 1,136,847 people in outreach activities, 902 and 696 in communities, 282,624 in schools, 43,772 through mobile vans, and 4701 at fixed centres located in public sector hospitals across the province.

Officials said the campaign was launched in response to the cases of both measles and rubella in the province. Both the ailments were vaccine-preventable while unimmunised people were vulnerable to blindness, pneumonia, diarrhoea and abortions, they added.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2021

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